Defending Against a Domestic Violence Restraining Order in California

Father working while son looks over his shoulder

Without correct management, a restraining order could permanently scar your legal history. With an experienced attorney’s help, however, you will readily defend yourself from further unfortunate eventualities. You will increase the chances that the case ends in your favor, an opportunity your legal counsel will seek to achieve.

Here, we’ll examine your rights and obligations, in the face of a petition for a restraining order. You’d also see the implications of a typical domestic violence restraining order case in California.

Different Types of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders—and What They Mean

So, what are restraining orders? These are basically court orders to ensure that the “restrained party” stays away from the “protected party”. In a scenario where someone has a restraining order against you in California, it’s one of these types of restraining orders described below.

That individual might be facing an emergency, temporary, or permanent restraining order. Let’s take a peek at each restraining order form and what they mean to the recipient.

  • Emergency Protective Order (EPO)

According to California Family Code 6250, a law officer could request an EPO under specified circumstances. The officer would make such requests where the officer feels there is imminent danger of domestic violence with the perceived victim. An example is where a drunk parent is at risk of physically hurting a minor child.

However, it’s worthy of note that only a law enforcement officer could request an emergency protective order. Once the judge or commissioner establishes the necessity and efficacy of the order, they’d enforce it. 

EPOs usually last for one week (five business days or seven calendar days) and it often precedes a temporary restraining order, after which you’d have to make a defense. After all, the purpose of an EPO is to provide a victim protection long enough for him or her to seek a permanent restraining order through the court process.

  • Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)

We hope you’re able to defend yourself successfully against a temporary restraining order. Nonetheless, if you’re served one before receiving helpful legal assistance, TROs typically last for 20-25 days and can be easily renewed until there is a hearing on whether a permanent order should issue. The family court issues this order if they feel that the petitioner (opponent) needs more protection. 

However, where there’s evidence in favor of the petitioner, the court issues a “permanent” restraining order. But that’s far from what you want—and that’s why you’re here. Right? 

  • Permanent Restraining Order 

A California family court hearing always precedes a permanent restraining order. Here, a judge might issue a permanent order where one family member appears to remain in danger with the restrained party. Also, it’s crucial to note that the term “permanent” here doesn’t mean you’d have to stay away for life! Domestic violence restraining orders usually last for three to five years.

Restraining Orders: Steps to Take When Facing One

What do you do when facing restraining orders of varying forms? Here are some vital things to note:

  • Follow the Restraining Order

Here’s the first thing to note if you received a restraining order. Obey all orders included in it, including not having any form of contact, whether directly or indirectly, with the petitioner. It’s vitally important that you obey the orders, even when you think they are innocent. 

  • Contact an Attorney

Although receiving a permanent restraining order isn’t a crime, it could damage your record. You don’t want potential employers, landlords, or business partners knowing you had such allegations against you. It’d be prudent if you consulted with an experienced California attorney in defending against restraining orders.

Think about it. What if the petitioner hired a lawyer to support their cause in court? Your competent attorney would guide you through the intricacies and possible eventualities of the case. Seeking expert advice would get you more prepared than if you were defending yourself. This is especially important when the circumstances giving rise to the restraining order against you have led to the district attorney filing criminal charges against you, because any statements you make in the civil or family restraining order matter can be used against you in the criminal matter. 

  • Prepare Every Form of Evidence in Your Custody

Your goal is to make the court absolve you of receiving a permanent restraining order. Get as much evidence as necessary concerning the events or incidents surrounding the case. Here’s a rundown of what facts and pieces of evidence to prepare when seeing your lawyer.

  • Gather all related physical evidence, including photos, screenshots, text messages, emails, videos, materials, clothes, etc.
  • Prepare any records or documents that could support your defense or which the petitioner might also use. They include emails, GPS histories, computer or phone records, police reports, surveillance footage, to shed more light on your case. 
  • Also, get a list of potential witnesses to the case. Outline every individual you think has some information concerning preceding events or your petitioner. Obtain the contact information of possible witnesses as they might have to appear in court.

It’s crucial to gather all these shreds of evidence to counter any false claims your opponent might make. Let’s say they make a false claim implicating a physical location, your GPS records would readily come to the rescue.

Or they might accuse you of calling in or sending emails repeatedly. If your phone records depict otherwise, you’d easily disprove the claims.

  • Consider the Burden of Proof

The burden of proof is the set standard by the court to determine whether they will grant the petitioner’s request. In criminal cases, the standard of proof requires that the evidence is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” However, restraining order cases aren’t criminal cases—and, therefore, their standard of proof is less stringent. 

During domestic violence restraining order cases, the court seeks a preponderance of evidence from the petitioner. If your opponent’s evidence sufficiently meets their burden of proof, then the court would likely believe them. 

Be mindful of your petitioner’s burden of proof in trying to make their allegations. It’s advisable to consult with expert counsel to prepare with you before your hearing adequately.

  • Stay Away from These

Short-term restraining orders usually occur pretty quickly, particularly emergency and temporary restraining orders. During the court hearing, the court decides on issuing a permanent order. In the build-up to your hearing, it’s prudent to avoid any of the following.

  • Avoid Tampering with Evidence

Don’t fall into the trap of eliminating any evidence you think could hamper your defense. If the court finds you committed perjury or obstruction of justice, it might charge you with a criminal offense.

  • Steer Clear From Intimidating a Potential Witness

Even seemingly harmless conversations between a restrained party and witnesses could be tagged as “witness tampering.” The crime of tampering with a witness include such examples as:

  • Offering a bribe to witnesses to give false information in court.
  • Threatening a witness with physical or psychological danger.
  • Conniving with the witnesses to destroy any evidence that could implicate the defendant, etc.

Being guilty of tampering with witnesses is tantamount to a crime of “misdemeanor” or “felony.” You want to avoid any situations that could further complicate your defense.

  • Violation of the Terms of Order

The family court usually issues temporary or permanent restraining orders to protect the petitioner. Any violation of court orders could appear as an attempt to harm your opponent. 

While consulting with your experienced attorney before your hearing, avoid disregarding any term binding to that order. 

For example, not going physically near the petitioner or bearing arms around them, is one of these terms inherent in a court order.

Summing Up

Regardless of the form of restraining order you received, consult an attorney to provide professional assistance. An expert legal counsel would help protect your rights and work towards securing you a favorable outcome. 

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